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Why This Recipe Works

Most baked pasta casseroles result in mushy noodles and flavorless vegetables in a thick, overly rich sauce. To solve this issue, we parcooked the pasta until it was just beginning to soften so that it wouldn’t overcook when baked or reheated. A combination of cream, vegetable broth, and white wine formed the basis of a simple flour-thickened sauce. Leav­ing the sauce a bit loose ensured that there was enough liquid to finish cooking the pasta during baking or reheating. For the vegetables, we chose a fresh combination of corn and tomatoes. Sprinkling additional cheese over the top before baking protected the pasta and ensured it cooked through evenly.

Serves 8
Active Time
45 minutes 
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

1 pound penne
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup dry white wine
4 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs
8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt cook, stirring often, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta in colander and toss with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Dry now-empty pot and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, cream, and wine, smoothing out any lumps. Stir in corn and bring to simmer.

3. Off heat, gradually whisk in 1 cup fontina and ½ cup Parmesan into sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Stir in tomatoes and pasta, breaking up any clumps. Transfer pasta mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup fontina and ½ cup Parmesan.

4. Place baking dish on aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbling around edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Let casserole cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

To Make Ahead

  • Casserole, prepared through step 3, can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours
  • To bake, cover with greased aluminum foil and bake on foil-lined sheet in 400-degree oven until hot throughout, about 35 minutes; remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is golden, 25 to 35 minutes, before garnishing as directed
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